Relining America’s Birdcages

Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Reprinted from Issue Number 27, May 1, 1997

Historians of the future — like paleobiologists describing some bizarre underseascape populated with crinoids, trilobites, and giant water-breathing scorpions — will regard the century we’ve almost lived through as the “Age of Lies”.

We all swim in an ocean of lies, every day.

Some of us even drown in them.

How many people do you know who still believe that Jack Kennedy was shot by a lone assassin? Or that if the Navy says it didn’t shoot down TWA 800, then it didn’t. Or that the government couldn’t possibly have murdered those women and children near Waco? One belief we all share, however, is that if more people knew the truth — about JFK, TWA 800, Waco, the Federal Reserve, Social Security, or anything else that the government, the public schools, and the media use each other to lie to us about — we’d have a chance at a better world.

For decades, many individuals and entire movements have tried tackling the government on its own terms and failed miserably. Government will be the last thing that changes. It should be obvious by now to anybody with half a brain that politics — at least at the national level — is not the answer to any question anybody genuinely concerned with individual liberty ever intended to ask.

The school system is in the process of self-destructing, as surely as if Captain Kirk, Scotty, and Mr. Spock were giving it all the proper passwords. Not only has it abandoned any pretense at teaching kids what they must know to become autonomous adults, in favor of pumping them full of fascist propaganda, it’s now fallen victim to its own agenda. NEA union members unable to read, write, or calculate themselves, and who know nothing of science, economics, or history, can only pretend to earn their overbloated salaries by battling the “Menace of Midol”, enforcing “political correctness”, and confiscating pocket knives too small to be of utility for anything but skinning and field-dressing butterflies.

There is a way to knock another leg from under the three-legged stool of government, public schools, and media, a workable substitute for conventional politics that demands no compromise on the part of those who wish to be free. What’s more, if the enemies of liberty possess no integrity, it can even make that fact an asset, instead of the frustrating liability it’s always seemed to be.

From now on, whenever you hear reporters lying on radio or television, or read lies they’ve written in newspapers or magazines — about the internet, about your right to own and carry weapons, about Waco, about anything — wait for the next commercial, or take note of the nearest quarter- or half-page advertisement, the kind of ads that constitute a publication’s “bread and butter”.

Now ordinarily, if you did anything about any of the million lies a day the media spew at you and your children, it would simply be to complain about it to a friend in person or on the internet, or write a letter to the editor. A letter you know will be published only if it makes your side look like a gaggle of lunatics. A letter which, if it fails to serve their purposes, the editorial crew will snigger at obscenely, crumple into a sweaty little ball, and toss into the circular file — “Missed, dammit! How about three out of five?”

Instead of going through that useless empty ritual one more time, write your letter to that advertiser, telling him about what you’ve just read in the publication, or heard on the station, whose bills he pays with his advertising fees. Tell him the intellectual thugs whose wages he pays are lying about all the vital issues of the day. (Each of us has his own pet peeve, and you can stick to that if you prefer.) They’re trying to help vile pressure groups and politicians deprive you of your rights. They’re trying to get you injured or killed — and even worse, to get your children injured or killed — on his nickel!

Pretend you’re a liberal, or that he is. Don’t let it sound intellectual. Keep it easily understandable, expressed in short words and shorter sentences. Stick to one concept per letter. Make your pen or keyboard drip with emotion. Think with your tear ducts (and parts south). Tell him he’s helping evil be perpetrated. He pays for it, therefore it’s his fault. If he’s the average guy who manages a furniture store, he won’t know what to do with a letter like this, blaming him for all the world’s problems. If he gets a dozen, and they all seem independent and spontaneous, he may quit selling furniture and join a monastery!

So now it’s time to reverse yourself (remember, you’re a liberal, or he is) and let him off the hook. Tell him that you don’t necessarily hold him responsible. After all, we’re men of the world. We know that newspaper and TV people are the “something worse” that scum keeps from floating to the top.

But don’t forget to ask him this question: if the newspaper or TV station lies about something as simple and basic, for example, as the Bill of Rights, then why should anybody believe anything they have say about hisgoods or services? Don’t threaten or bluster — nobody actually gives a damn in any case, and your guilt-trip was just a buildup to the punchline — simply demand an answer to your question. If they’ll lie about A and B then why not C and D?

Now comes the most important part: be sure and send a copy of your letter to the newspaper or television station. But don’t send it to the editorial department. Send it to the advertising manager. He’ll pay close attention to it. He never gets any letters, except from the advertisers themselves, bitching that last Tuesday’s grocery store double-trucker employed the wrong typeface.

Unlike the hairsprayheads and J-school graduates upstairs who only think they run the joint, he doesn’t care that you can be credibly blown off as a “right-wing kook”. He won’t argue with you about what the Second Amendment “really” provides. And he won’t sniff haughtily that your letter is eleven words over some 400-word limit. The only thing he cares about is advertising revenue.

If he thinks editorial’s policy is fiscally harmful, he’ll go straight to the top management and — provided you’re consistent and persistent enough — the First Amendment be damned, they’ll come down on editorial like a ton of bricks.

Before I wrote this column, I checked with Vin Suprynowicz, the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review Journal, celebrated syndicated columnist, and editor-in-chief of The Libertarian Enterprise. Vin’s worked all his adult life at papers of varying size across the country. I asked him if the idea was sound and how many letters might be required to have noticable effect.

Vin astonished me by replying that six or seven letters a week for three to five months would probably do the trick. I’d thought it would take many times that number and at least twice that long. If he’s only half right, then a mere 300 letters could, in only half a year, change the editorial policy of the most left-wing metropolitan birdcage liners. As if by a miracle (the usual kind, requiring lots of elbow-grease and skull-sweat on our part) the “little men” by whom we find ourselves governed will have lost one more pillar of support.

Naturally, there’s no reason you can’t wage this kind of campaign all by yourself. On the other hand, if you and your friends get together and hold a “Libertyware Party” on a regular basis — say, monthly — you can share any research you’ve done (you may find that addresses are remarkably hard to root out for certain national advertisers who want your money but don’t want any other kind of contact with their customers) and plan ways to distribute your letters throughout the month in order to make them appear as independent and spontaneous as you want them to. Be sure you all use different kinds of paper or stationery, different ink colors, and different handwriting, typewriters, or printer typefaces. It sure beats standing in the rain collecting petition signatures.

Electoral politics has failed. It’s time to take the same energy and put it into an undertaking which can achieve more than our late lamented LPUS ever achieved.